Magnificat – The Observer Review

Nicholas Kenyon, The Observer

★★★★★

Another bull’s-eye hit from John Butt’s Dunedin Consort. […] the playing and singing are terrific, and Butt creates a very convincing congregational hymn with organ flourishes.

Read the full review here.

Magnificat – HR Audio Review

Graham Williams, HRAudio

In all respects this is one of the most enjoyable releases that I have encountered this year and cannot recommend too highly. Definitely a disc to put right at the top of your Christmas shopping list.


John Butt could fairly be described as a true Renaissance man in the world of period performances. Conductor, organist, harpsichordist, educator, pioneering researcher and scholar, he and the Edinburgh based group, the Dunedin Consort, that he directs have extended and enriched our understanding of many masterpieces of the Baroque repertoire. His award winning recordings of Bach, Handel and Mozart choral and instrumental works have been revelatory for many in the way that they contextualise familiar works in order to present them in a new light.

On this superb new release Bach’s ‘Magnificat’ BWV 243a and Cantata ‘Christen, ätzet diesen Tag’ BWV 63 are placed within a reconstruction of the composer’s first Christmas Vespers given in the Nikolaikirche, Leipzig on 25th December 1723 – a fascinating and brilliantly executed concept.

The disc begins with the Giovanni Gabrieli Motet ‘Hodie Christus natus est’ for eight voices arranged in two separate choirs. The eight singers of the Dunedin Consort deliver it with their usual excellent intonation and clear diction over a firm organ accompaniment. This is followed by the brief Organ Prelude ‘Gott, durch deine Güte’ BWV600 played by John Butt, who also performs three more of these Preludes during the course of the Vespers.

The opening chorus of the Christmas Cantata, a work composed around 1713-15 almost ten years before Bach reached Leipzig, then bursts forth joyously with its magnificent use of four trumpets (the only time Bach used this number) three oboes and drums. The exquisite singing of the contemplative aria ‘Gott, du hast es wohl gefüget’ with its meltingly beautiful obbligato oboe is one of the many highlights of this performance, but every member of the Dunedin Consort acquit themselves with the utmost distinction. The uplifting final chorus punctuated again with celebratory trumpets and drums brings this most exhilarating performance to a triumphant close.

Between two further Organ Preludes (BWV606 and BWV733) that evidence the power and quality of sound obtainable from the fine 1990 Peter Collins instrument in the Greyfriars Kirk, the soloists of the Dunedin Consort are joined by an additional fifty-five singers for the singing of the Congregational Chorale ‘Vom Himmel hoch’, and what a thrilling sound they make!

We now reach Bach’s ‘Magnificat’ BWV243a which is performed here in its original version of 1723 not the more familiar one that the composer made ten years later. John Butt in the accompanying notes cogently outlines the many differences (especially in instrumentation) between the two versions, the most obvious being the transposition down from E flat to D major in the 1733 version. Equally striking is the interpolation of four ‘Laudes’ at various points in the work. These are settings of seasonal hymns that outline the Christmas story and are an apt addition to the performance. The ‘Magnificat’ BWV 243 is familiar as one of Bach’s most dramatic and exuberant creations, but the Dunedin’s fresh and rhythmically buoyant account of the earlier version given here is quite special and certainly deserves wider dissemination. A final Organ Prelude BWV603 is followed by a rousing account of the second Congregational Chorale ‘Puer natus in Bethlehem’ to complete this inspiring Vespers recording.

Greyfriars Kirk seems to provide the perfect acoustic setting for this marvellous release, and the engineering by Philip Hobbs is exemplary. The multi-channel recording conveys a beautifully clear and well balanced sound picture that allows the many antiphonal effects to be experienced to the full. The scale of the large choruses and as well as the more intimate sections of both the ‘Magnificat’ and the ‘Cantata’ are vividly captured in demonstration worthy sound.

This being Linn we are assured of quality liner notes, here provided by John Butt, and full texts and translations are also included.

Magnificat – Sydsvenskan Review

Tobias Lund, Sydsvenskan

John Butt gör en finkänslig och rörlig rekonstruktion av J S Bachs magnifika vesper.

Read the review in full here.

Mozart’s Requiem – Grammy Award Nominee 2015

We are thrilled to report that – in addition to the coveted Gramophone award we received in September – our recording of Mozart: Requiem has been nominated in the category of ‘Best Choral Performance’ for the 57th Annual GRAMMY® Awards.

John Butt: A Rightful Gramophone Award Winner – The Guardian

Philip Clark, The Guardian

‘He may be an unlikely podium hero, but [John Butt’s] recording of Mozart’s Requiem with the Dunedin Consort, complete with echoes of a 1920s jazz band, is a delight.’

Read the full article here.

Mozart’s Requiem – Gramophone Award 2014

We are delighted to announce that our latest recording of Mozart’s Requiem has won a Gramophone Award under the Choral category.

John Butt, Music Director, had this to say on the announcement:

“I am absolutely delighted to hear that the Dunedin Consort has won another Gramophone Award, complementing our success with Messiah in 2007. We are exceptionally fortunate in having an absolutely superlative team of soloists, choir and instrumentalists, the most supportive board and management we could hope for, and, of course, the unsurpassed work of Linn Records at every level of production. This success is also a wonderful reflection of our generous Scottish supporters and donors, in a particularly crucial year for the country.”

Brandenburg Concertos – MusicWeb International Review

Kirk McElhearn, MusicWeb International

‘If you love these works, you’ll be entranced by the excellent quality of the Dunedin Consort and the warm listening experience.’

Read the full review here.

Brandenburg Concertos – The Arts Desk Review

Graham Rickson, The Arts Desk

Butt’s impeccably prepared Bach tastes more like a warming bowl of chocolate.

Read the full review here.

Brandenburg Concertos – Bangkok Post Review

Ung-Aang Talay, Bangkok Post

You say that, as a classical collector, there are at least 74 recordings that you need to buy before investing in yet another version of Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos? That you already have a version of choice (possibly Alessandrini’s or Gardiner’s most recent account), or maybe several, that aren’t likely to be superseded in your affections any time soon?  Listen to a few excerpts from this set on the Linn Records website and you may decide that there is still room on your culture shelf for one more set.    […]   But the sound of the Studio Master recordings is absolutely spectacular, with the presence of the instruments almost tangible.

Read the full review here.

John Passion – Gramophone Award Nominee

Our recording of Bach’s John Passion within a liturgical reconstruction has been nominated for a prestigious Gramophone within the Baroque Vocal category.

We are delighted by this nomination and want to once again thank all our supporters, musicians and customers for their support. We could not have done it without you.

John Passion – Recording of the Month March 2013 – Gramophone

Gramophone has awarded the Dunedin Consort’s gripping new performance of Bach’s ‘John Passion’ its highest accolade naming it ‘Recording of the Month’ in the March issue of the magazine!

This new recording marks the first time on record listeners can experience the Passion within its original liturgical context and features a star-studded cast including, Nicholas Mulroy, Matthew Brook, Robert Davies, Joanne Lunn and Clare Wilkinson.

‘…the increasingly impressive Nicholas Mulroy’s alert, lightly coloured Evangelist strikes a balance in which declamation and lyricism are equally ardent and equally touching, while Matthew Brook is a supple and authoritative Christus.’ Gramophone

Fans of Dunedin Consort will know that director John Butt is a master at using historical context to shine new light upon well-known choral works. Recreated for this recording is a Good Friday Vesper liturgy of a passion performance as it would have occurred during Bach’s time at Leipzig.

‘…naturalness and emotional honesty are what emerge from this tight-knit and perfectly paced ensemble Passion, in which Bach’s complex succession of recitatives, arias, choruses and chorales has surely seldom sounded so convincingly of a piece.’ Gramophone

B Minor Mass – Editor’s Choice – Gramophone

The award-winning Dunedin Consort’s “spine-tingling” new album ‘J.S. Bach Mass in B Minor’ has just been named ‘Editor’s Choice’ in the latest issue of Gramophone Magazine. This wonderful double album features the premiere recording of the Breitkopf & Härtel Edition of Bach’s popular mass edited by Joshua Rifkin in 2006. Director John Butt and the Dunedin Consort make this both a revealing, historically accurate soloist-led performance and a truly groundbreaking recording.

This recording has been very highly praised by the critics who have described it as “definitive“, “sensational” and “powerful“.

“Surely no other recording of Bach’s B Minor Mass bounces along with such joy as this.”  The Times

“It’s sensational. It’s a knockout. Another award winner, perhaps?” The Herald

“You can really lose yourself in this performance.” ClassicsToday.com

“[The] performance is powerful and beautifully shaped.” Sunday Times

“This constantly changing texture makes us listen afresh to the beauty of Bach’s astonishing vocal writing.. A definitive recording.” The Observer

“Spine-tingling…an excellent recording.” International Record Review

Messiah – Gramophone Award 2007

David Vickers, Gramophone

[…] the freshest, most natural, revelatory and transparently joyful Messiah I have heard for a very long time.